New study lifts the lid on mental health self-care in Essex

We have used Mental Health Awareness Week to launch our new report that reveals the state of what it is like for Essex residents to access the help and support they need to cope with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

The research study looked at the issue of self-care – a concept that has provoked much discussion over the last few years. “Self-care is being talked about more and more by health professionals, politicians and in the media,” said Dr Alex Georgiadis, Research and Commissioning Manager at Healthwatch Essex.

“However, there has been limited research carried out into how people who experience sadness, stress or anxiety think about practising self-care and how primary care mental health services support them in looking after their mental health in this way.”

The research study held focus groups in Chelmsford, Harlow and Rayleigh earlier this year, asking members of the public treated for anxiety and/or depression to share their experiences and opinions on how the NHS should better support them to take care of their mental health.

“As with many of our studies, the findings show that treating people as individuals is key; activities that constitute self-care in mental health change and readjust depending on the evolving condition of the person and changes in functioning,” explained Alex.

Likewise, factors such as the impact of social and physical health problems also influence the ability and motivation of people to practice self-care. And receiving professional support was seen to be an integral part of a self-care routine during periods of distress and recovery.

Ultimately, the study revealed that in their current form, primary care mental health services do not support people very well in practising self-care. Difficulties with access and continuity of care, as well as problematic interactions with GPs, contributed to the limited support received by the people spoken to by Healthwatch Essex.

The report also includes a number of recommendations, centring on the need for consistent support from trained healthcare professionals coupled with timely, easy access to services that provide choice and respect patients’ pace of recovery.

It is hoped the study will improve mental health care in Essex and Healthwatch Essex will be looking to work with GP practices and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services to share the findings and recommendations.

The lived experience of self-care in mental health in Essex report is now available to read.

For more information on the work of Healthwatch Essex visit www.healthwatchessex.org.uk and check out the Lived Experience training course.

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